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P1: IML LE128-26 LE128-Vorderer.cls September 27, 2005 13:36 CHAPTER 26 Video Games for Entertainment and Education Ute Ritterfeld University of Southern California René Weber Michigan State University While the morality of games and their ethical implications in an educational context have been questioned from the very beginning of game technology evolution (e.g., McLean, 1978), video games1 have become not only increasingly attractive for players of both genders (Burke, 2000), various ethnicities (Bickham et al., 2003), and ages (IDSA, 2003), but are also utilized more and more for educational purposes (see, for example, the annual serious games summit, http://www.seriousgamessummit.com/). Thus, studying the education potential for this new and controversial medium is of tremendous importance. Although comprehensive effect theories on the specific impact of video game playing are still missing, more than a decade of research provides us with an impressive body of litera- ture demonstrating mostly negative, but also significant positive effects (see, for introduction, Mitchell & Savill-Smith, 2004). The majority of research has focused on the potential negative effects of video game playing; however, this is due to an abundance of studies on violent games and does not reflect the potential of video games as a medium. While Weber, Ritterfeld, and Kostygina (chap. 24) discuss the findings on violent video game playing, hostility, and aggression, Lee and Peng (chap. 22) as well as Lieberman (chap. 25) give a comprehensive overview on effect studies with an emphasis on learning, and Durkin (chap. 21) further elabo- rates the benefits of video game playing for adolescents. This chapter focuses on the potential of video game playing to facilitate developmental processes through the unique combination of interactive entertainment and learning, while at the same time taking a rather theoretical perspective. The term “developmental processes” refers to an understanding of media usage and effects in the context of human development. Human development is the result of continuous trans- actions between a person’s biological constitution and his or her physical, social, and media environment over the life span. According to this perspective, media usage is not random but already reflects the developmental processes of a user who is selecting some media or con- tent over others, and processing it according to his or her developmental capacities, previous 399 P1: IML LE128-26 LE128-Vorderer.cls September 27, 2005 13:36 400 RITTERFELD AND WEBER experiences, and current developmental needs. At the same time, the media usage influences the developmental processes of the user. Taking a developmental approach seriously results in proposing distinctly different chal- lenges for media usage and effect studies usually undertaken in the field of communication: (1) Impact studies should reflect evolving mental representations of the game content. Indi- viduals may interpret the same video game play in completely different ways. For instance, one person takes the video game world as a realistic simulation, whereas another reads it in a metaphoric or even ironic way (Potter & Tomasello, 2003). (2) The study of play (Ohler & Nieding, chap. 8) demonstrates clearly that play is not a random activity ...

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